February Staycation: Getting Away Close to Home

Sometimes, you just need to get away.

The sensation first hit me some time back in January and wouldn’t let up. My husband and I needed to get away—from the laundry, the dishes, the kids (no offense, kids, we love you!), basically the everyday stress of life. I started searching for interesting things to do in New Hampshire, since we didn’t have a big budget and didn’t want to be too far from the kids.

Around the same time that I was going stir-crazy, I learned that the Currier Museum of Art in Manchester had a new exhibit coming in February, featuring the work of legendary sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens. My husband and I previously visited the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site (SGNHS) in Cornish and really enjoyed seeing his work and touring the grounds of his home and studio.

The Saint-Gaudens exhibit seemed like the perfect focal point for our getaway, so I booked us a room at the Ash Street Inn, a gorgeous Victorian mansion turned bed & breakfast located less than a mile from Elm Street and a stone’s throw from the Currier. To make the getaway complete, I made reservations for us to have lunch at Pickety Place on our way to Manchester.

Mason’s Hidden Gem

When the day of our getaway finally arrived, we dropped the kids off with my parents and headed to our first stop. Situated at the dead end of a dirt road in Mason, Pickety Place is a gourmet luncheon and gift shop housed in a series of picturesque red-painted buildings dating from 1786 and dwarfed by an ancient ash tree. The buildings’ storybook quality made them the perfect model for grandmother’s house in Elizabeth Orton Jones’ Little Red Riding Hood (1948).

Pickety Place’s prix fixe monthly menu consists of five courses, and diners are organized by pre-arranged group seatings, rather than coming and going of their own accord. The menu changes from month to month and features herbs grown right on the restaurant’s sprawling grounds. Our first course was gingered carrot soup with toasted almonds and cranberry crème fraiche. The salad was traditional Greek, followed by homemade multi grain bread and honeyed butter. Our entrées were individual black Angus meatloaf over cheddar mashed potatoes (my husband’s choice) or individual vegetable pot pie (my choice), with a side of sautéed root vegetables. Dessert was a double chocolate and raspberry cake topped with white chocolate frosting—the superlative “decadent” doesn’t do it justice!

A Good Night’s Sleep? Priceless!

From Pickety Place we wound our way over back roads to the Ash Street Inn, where we were greeted by the lovely innkeepers, Margit and Rob Wezwick. They showed us to Room 205, the former dining room, which features a gas fireplace and retains its original Victorian stained-glass windows. The atmosphere in the room is peaceful and calming, and the bed is so comfortable you’ll never want to leave it! The inn is surprisingly quiet, given its location within walking distance to downtown Manchester. Upon waking we enjoyed a delicious breakfast, cooked to order by Rob. I cannot say enough good things about this wonderful couple and their beautiful inn.

Les Beaux Arts in Manchester

After checking out of the inn, we headed over to the Currier. We browsed the entire museum first, since I wanted to see two Maxfield Parrish paintings that are part of the permanent collection. Parrish was a contemporary of Saint-Gaudens, and both were members of the Cornish Art Colony. The Parrish paintings did not disappoint and provided a nice segue into the Saint-Gaudens exhibit.

Saint-Gaudens was an American sculptor who trained with the masters in France before returning to the US to begin his storied career. He created some of the most famous monuments in America which can still be seen today in Boston, Chicago, and New York City. The Currier exhibit features some of his most recognizable works, including Diana. My favorite piece was Victory (pictured)—on loan from SGNHS.

Our trip to the Currier was made complete by an afternoon presentation of “Music in the Time of Saint-Gaudens,” performed by SymphonyNH with guest conductor Scott Parkman. Curated by Parkman, the pieces were chosen to reflect the artistic milieu of Saint-Gaudens and included works by such contemporaries as Griffes, Beach, Ives, and Foote.

Saint-Gaudens’ works will be on display at the Currier through May 20, 2018. It really is amazing how many wonderful places there are to stay, play, and eat right here in New Hampshire!

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